"I Was A Reckless Little Shit!" Chubby And The Gang Interviewed
At the beginning of 2020, Chubby and the Gang were revelling in a trailblazing quest which took them far and wide across the US of A. They delivered music to jubilant crowds night after night, picking up giant press reviews along the way (Pitchfork, Rolling Stone), and audience numbers grew from fifty to five-hundred a night. Then… we all know what happened next.
Yes, sadly, Covid-19 came to spoil the party, and the momentum that Chubby and the Gang had built across the pond was, like a deliciously cold pint served in a pub, now out of reach.
Fast forward nine months however, and guess who’s back? After signing to Partisan Records (IDLES, Fontaines D.C) here in the UK, Charlie ‘Chubby’ Manning and his gang have just brought out a re-issue of their blistering debut record ‘Speed Kills’ and people are, once again, taking notice.
London’s vast-ranging cultural heritage as a city permeates throughout the album, which fuses hardcore, pub rock, blues and hard punk influences to create its raucous, incendiary soundscape. As the album’s producer Jonah Falco sums up perfectly, “the songs will have you reaching for your London A to Z and trying your hardest not to spill your pint.”
We caught Charlie with his feet up – as he enjoyed some time off from his day job as an electrician – to chat about all things music as well as Ikea showrooms and how everyone likes the smell of their own shit...
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How has 2020 been for you so far? Have you held up alright?
We’ve recorded our second album during this pandemic so we’ve been busy as a band. We were a bit back and forth during the first lockdown, but then once that passed, we went up to Leeds and recorded the whole second thing and it’s getting mixed as we speak.
This year’s been a bit weird for us as a band because a lot of things have happened for us, but also fuck all has happened, you know what I mean? We signed a new deal, got all this press stuff, then the flipside is that we’re stuck in our rooms just staring at the walls.
Personally though, nothing much has changed. I’m still working doing my electrician stuff. I can’t complain really; I’ve not been ill, I’m eating healthier, exercising more, doing all that good shit.
I think there’s been a real shift in people as well. Especially in London where you’re working all the time, all the time, all the time, I think people have took the time to stop and think about it and realise how absurd the situation is, you know. Working forty, fifty hours a week or whatever non-stop, you realise this is a bit insane. You also have more time to lament on how shit the government is.
Has music always played an important part in your life?
Yeah, definitely. I know a lot of people come away with soft shit when they talk about ‘discovering’ music, but I do think that without music I would be in a much darker place. When I was a kid, I was a reckless little shit, and I think getting into punk music at an early age levelled me out a little bit.
At what time did you start to think about forming Chubby and the Gang?
I don’t know really. There isn’t any miraculous story or that behind it. I’ve always been writing stuff when I’ve been in bands; I’m into constructing music. Then I just sort of had these songs where I thought, ‘you know what, I wanna do this,’ you know. I wanted to do something that was a bit more musical than a hardcore band. So, I just kind of came up with a bunch of songs then got my mates in. It’s nothing mad… it’s just like, ‘I like it, fuck it,’ you know what I mean (laughs)? I always think like that.
Everyone likes the smell of their own shit… I just roll with it.
Do you find it easy juggling your job as an electrician along with your music?
Right now, I’ve got a good balance. But I think when the music things start to amp up, I might struggle a little bit. Obviously, cos of the whole Covid thing, there’s no gigs so I’m working it around my work.
I did this BBC interview during my lunch and all sorts but my bosses have been cool with me stepping out to handle something. I’m willing to ride out whatever comes; I don’t think I’ll give up the ‘leccie stuff but I’d like to do as much as I can with the band. You only live once you know what I mean.
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What was it like seeing how well ‘Speed Kills’ was received at the start of the year in the US?
It was funny because we went on tour in America and the record came out on the same day that we started the tour. Like I said earlier, everyone loves the smell of their own shit, so I wanted to push the record, show people it and all that sort of stuff, but I wasn’t expecting everyone to respond really positively. I think it’s almost unhealthy to expect people respond in a certain way, you know? But when we started playing, it got into Pitchfork and Rolling Stone somehow, and then from that people just started taking notice.
The first date on the tour we played to like 50 people, then by the last date it was about 500 hundred people, so I could see it happening and I was thinking to myself ‘this is fucking mental’ you know. It was wild.
I always try to downplay stuff in my head and not over emphasise too much but people seemed to love it so it was good. I think US crowds always respond to British, Irish music or whatever really well because it’s more romanticised for them than it is here. I think it’s easier to get a US crowd on board than it is a British crowd, in my opinion.
Do you have a favourite line/lyric on the album?
Man, I’m not really a lyricist but I’ve got this line that talks about police brutality and it goes: “Too many have gone, but it’s never cops’ sons.” ('Blue Ain’t My Colour'). I quite like that one. It’s more like pub talk in a musical form.
How badly have you missed performing live this year?
To be honest, I’ve been so busy with work I haven’t really thought about it. At first, I was like feeling glad to have a bit of time off, especially after that tour because it was fucking hectic and we were really going for it. Right now, I’m itching for it. I want to get out and do stuff, you know. Fucking climbing the walls here. Socially distanced gigs as well, they’re kak man. It feels like you’re going to take a piss in an Ikea showroom or something.
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Has London’s hardcore scene managed to stay connected without live performances this year?
I think the internet helps. People get to chat to each other over the internet and make shows, plan for shows when they come back and all that. There’s a big UK hardcore festival called ‘UK Hardcore Returns’ which is gonna happen as soon as they lift the lockdown basically which should be fun.
I tend not to be on the internet that much anyway but I think people using the internet to talk about what’s gonna happen when we all get back and stuff is a good thing. But, it’s difficult, man. I think when you’re involved in an underground scene, you’re doing what you’re doing for the love of it anyway. So, when you can’t do it, you’re not gonna go anywhere; you’re still gonna be there because you love it, you know what I mean?
How do you feel now that you’ve signed to Partisan Records?
Yeah man, big time. They approached us in March time, something like that, then we had a few zoom meetings and signed literally as lockdown was coming in. But they’ve been really sweet to us. We’ve recorded the new LP for them and they’ve been good at every turn really.
Can you spill any gossip on album number two?
Fifteen tracks. Kind of the same vibe but a few tracks sound like Status Quo or something. It’s all rowdy, quick, no-nonsense.
Finally, what do you think it is about London that makes it such a hotbed for music and creativity?
London for me is a place where there’s so much culture and so much stuff happening that it’s like you end up getting a fucking huge influence from all over the world but it’s right in your neighbourhood. It can be really amazing.
So many interesting stories have happened in London that I’ve seen and been a part of; I don’t need to steep anything in metaphor and make some kind of thing up because I’ve seen it, I’ve seen interesting shit. Everything is everywhere and it’s really quite inspiring to see.
I think sometimes music gets a bit fictional and it doesn’t have to be, especially in a time like this where you couldn’t even write this shit. But I’ve only ever lived in London and I only really know London, and a lot of people ask me about why I write so much about the city and shit but it’s because that’s what I know, you know what I mean? It’s my home.
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'Speed Kills' is out now.
Words: Jamie Wilde
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